CLEVELAND — As he prepares to step down as Cuyahoga County Executive at the end of this year, Armond Budish sat down with 3News anchor and managing editor Russ Mitchell for a one-on-one interview.
The 69-year-old Cleveland native announced in November of 2021 that he would not be seeking a third term in office. At the time, Budish said it was time to "pass the torch to new leadership with fresh ideas" and indicated that he wants to spend more time with his family. His successor in January will be Chris Ronayne, the former president of University Circle Inc., who defeated Lee Weingart in last month's election
Budish told Mitchell that he had "mixed feelings" about his term in office coming to a close. "Because we really have accomplished so much. That's what I'm all about. That's why I took this job in the first place, to improve people's lives all over the county and we've been doing that. I love that part of the job," Budish said. "But it's stressful. It's not an easy job.
During the interview, the subject of the recent firing of MetroHealth CEO Akram Boutros came up. Boutros was let go just over a month before his planned amid allegations that he authorized more than $1.9 million in bonus payments to himself over a four-year period beginning in 2018, without disclosing those payments to MetroHealth's board of trustees.
"I think it's very sad," Budish said. "[Boutros] has done a fabulous job at Metro. He took that institution and turned it around. They've been a great partner to the county. When we needed help in the jail for health care for the prisoners, they stepped up. When we needed help in the community for [COVID-19] vaccines, testing, and tracing, he stepped up. I think it's sad. I don't know inside facts on what happened, but I can tell you he did great things at Metro and I'm sorry to see that this is all going on."
Budish leaves office with Ohio more "red" in the political landscape than it has ever been. The longtime Democrat is disappointed that the Buckeye State has tilted to the Republican side so dramatically in recent years.
"It's sad, because it helps everybody when we have a two-party system with both strong enough to compete with the other," he explained. "Right now, it's not that way. Republicans control all the statewide offices, they have a supermajority in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate. It's not good for Ohio, in my view, that we don't have competitive races."
Might things eventually improve for the Ohio Democratic party? "Things change, they almost change overnight sometimes," Budish answered. "But I don't see that happening anytime soon."
Budish's tenure as Cuyahoga County Executive has not been without controversy, notably in early 2019 when law enforcement officers raided county headquarters as part of an ongoing investigation. Though several files and hard drives were seized, Budish called the events "a publicity stunt" and has faced no charges in the matter.
Later, Budish was caught up in the county jail scandal that saw multiple officials (including former jail director Ken Mills) either lose their jobs or be criminally convicted. A lawsuit filed by a whistleblower accused Budish of retaliating against those who spoke up about conditions at the facility, but the executive has once again not been charged,
"I did nothing wrong," he told Mitchell, adding that the experience of being under scrutiny was horrible. "It's your reputation that's everything. I had, and still believe I have, an excellent reputation for integrity and honesty. and nobody is going to take that away from me. It was very upsetting."
So what's next for Budish? "I'm going to go out and work, probably. It won't be as stressful a job as the one I'm in right now, I can tell you that. I like to do things that are productive and help people, so I'll find something like that."
Watch the entire interview with Russ Mitchell and Armond Budish below:
You can also read Budish's "End of Term" report below: